Question: What do Andy Warhol, Barack Obama, Princess Diana, Michael Jackson and Norman Mailer all have in common?
Answer: They’ve all had a curious conversation with Brian Grazer.
Grazer, the Academy Award-winning Hollywood producer behind hits like A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Empire and Arrested Development, visited 360i’s New York office on Tuesday, April 21, to discuss his career and New York Times Best-Selling book, “A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life.” The book explores Grazer’s more than 30-year practice of seeking intriguing and accomplished strangers for what he calls “curiosity conversations.”
360i has long prided itself on being Powered by Curiosity – it’s in fact an agency credo – so we invited Grazer in to talk curiosity with our team.
In a Q&A with 360i Chairman Bryan Wiener, Grazer entertained a packed house with his stories, insights, name drops and humor, inspiring our curiosity.
Here are a few of the highlights:
When Grazer discovered the power of curiosity:
Around the age of five, Grazer remembers asking his grandmother Sonia – for whom his book is dedicated – “What goes faster, a car or a bee?” Instead of dismissing it, she validated his wonder by giving him a comprehensive and compelling answer. She followed by telling him, “That’s going to be your super power: curiosity.” He credits that day as the start to his life of curiosity, from elementary school through college, and into his daily life as a major Hollywood producer.
How he started his 30-year run of having bi-monthly ‘curiosity conversations’:
While doubting his impending start at The University of Southern California Law School (USC), Grazer recalled one really interesting professor at USC – Dr. Milton Wolpin, who had previously been a professor of his. Impulsively, he decided he had to speak to Dr. Wolpin individually. After no response to a letter, Grazer decided to wait outside the classroom and approach Dr. Wolpin as he exited. Grazer enthusiastically recalls, “I turned the 10 minutes that he agreed to talk to me into about an hour and a half! … I thought, this is mind blowing. In that time I learned much more emotionally and intellectually in psychologically and wisdom than I did in a full year.” It was in this moment that he fully realized the value of curiosity and the need to “find a way to apply it in a greater way” in his life.
On crafting emotional, intimate communications:
After landing a law clerk gig at Warner Brothers, Grazer told a white lie or two so that he could personally deliver papers to a few Hollywood A-listers – Warren Beatty being one of them. Grazer wanted to “completely bridge into his psyche. What’s a question that’s gonna matter to him? What’s he going through emotionally, professionally? … Because everything is emotional … What’s gonna matter that’s gonna make him talk?” Because, according to Grazer, “You’re not communicating unless you’re igniting emotion.” Regarding another conversation he had, our guest waxed poetically about the importance of being curious about your audience, “Intimacy can’t be created without curiosity.”
While Grazer credits much of his success to strong instincts, he was keen to note that, “Instincts have no value unless they’re informed.” He added emphasis by highlighting the importance of learning more and expanding the inputs of our lives.
How curiosity can be used to help manage a creative workforce:
Grazer said, “I think the best way to get creative people to think and work and be creative is [by] management through questions.” He then went on to explain how he has encouraged his Hollywood colleagues with questions that “infect their psyche with something that makes them think.”
Grazer’s diverse work in TV and film – which includes Friday Night Lights, 24, 8 Mile, Inside Man, A Beautiful Mind, Arrested Development, Apollo 13, Empire, and Liar Liar – highlight the creative output of being a passionately curious person. The advertising industry and people everywhere have lots to learn from creative visionaries like Brian Grazer, and we’re deeply appreciative of the time and energy he shared with us on Tuesday.
Learn more about Brian Grazer and his book #ACuriousMind here.