By Matthew Weiss, EO South Florida
I have been an EOer since 1996, but it wasn’t until five years ago that I discovered just how valuable my EO training could be. I had lunch with my banker, Jeff Crowther, who shared the powerful story of his son, Welles, a 9/11 victim. Jeff explained that, eight months after Welles died, his story of courage, strength and sacrifice became known due to a single, ordinary object— a red bandana.
In May 2002, The New York Times published an article about two survivors who were saved by a man wearing a red bandana. When the Crowthers read this, they knew they had “found” Welles. You see, when Welles was six, Jeff gave him a red bandana that would become his signature trademark. Upon learning of his heroics, I was amazed by Welles’s bravery (he saved at least 10 people), the way the “red bandana” revelation changed the family’s perspective on their loss and the legacy that was created by thousands who honor Welles in different ways.
While most filmmakers look for stories, this was a story that found a filmmaker. And that’s how the production of my film, “Man in Red Bandana,” began. I gained the leadership skills to write, direct and produce my first film from EO and my entrepreneurial training. Having successfully quarterbacked projects in my business and as a member leader, I knew I could do this story justice. As I get to the end of this thrilling, five-year journey, there are several lessons learned I would like to share:
Work the EO Network
Through the years, I have cultivated great relationships in EO. On a few occasions, I helped a former EOer named Kevin McKiernan, whose business matches musicians with big brands. In the middle of my film’s production, it dawned on me that Kevin could help. There were two songs written about Welles by songwriters who (like me) were inspired by his story. Kevin jumped at my request to find an artist who would record one of the songs. A few months later, I received an original recording of “One Red Bandana” performed by Lyle Lovett’s band that you can hear during the end credits of the film.
Always Be Learning
I consider myself a “learning junkie” and have both attended and Day Chair-ed hundreds of EO events. One of my favorite speakers is Ben Zander, a conductor at the Boston Philharmonic. Ben delivered a University keynote that involved listening to him play a Chopin prelude while thinking of a deceased loved one. At the time, I didn’t know that this session would ever help me, but I was open-minded. Years later, when I needed music for scenes dealing with loss, I thought of Ben’s speech. It turns out that Chopin’s prelude creates the perfect mood during these difficult scenes.
Hire for Culture
I saw Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, at EO NERVE. He taught me the importance of culture in business. His company’s hiring decisions are based, in large part, on cultural fit. With this insight, it was easy for me to filter out prospective team members for my project. For instance, I interviewed a composer who liked my “rough cut” but was not sure if he could write music for the film due to its difficult subject matter. When he called me a few days later proclaiming he could do it, I politely declined. If Welles’s story did not inspire him from the outset, he was just not the right cultural fit.
Build Your Community
Social media guru and former EOer, Dave Kerpen, taught me to build your community before you need it. As a result, I regularly update my film’s Facebook page and have been rewarded with 12,000+ “likes.” I have also created commemorative red bandanas as talking points for fans. Of course, this community will be invaluable for us when the film is released later this year. In fact, even as I speak with prospective distributors, our large fan base is a persuasive selling point.
Looking back at my journey, creating a film that honors Welles’s heroics is one of my greatest personal achievements. I feel grateful that my business is in such a position that I had the time to complete this labor of love. And I feel blessed knowing I have my family, network and EO in my corner, without whom I could not have created such a special project.
Matthew Weiss is the founder of Weiss and Associates, PC, a premier law firm handling vehicle and traffic law matters in New York. To learn more about “Man in Red Bandana,” visit maninredbandana.com.
This article, along with many others, is featured in the September 2016 issue of Octane magazine.