Brian Henson on His Father’s Legacy

Question:\r\nHow does your leadership style compare to your dad’s? 

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Brian Henson:  Boy, that’s one\r\nof those questions you almost have to ask somebody else. I guess I \r\nlearned a\r\ncouple of good lessons from my dad. One was when you’re creating \r\nsomething,\r\nwhat you want when you’re working with a team of other artists, is \r\neverybody to\r\nwork with some creative freedom, so that you really get the best out of\r\neverybody.  People would say to\r\nhim, “When you finish a movie, did it come out as good as you thought it\r\n was\r\ngoing to?”  Or, “Did it come out\r\nthe way you intended it to come out?” \r\nAnd my dad’s answer would be usually something to the affect of, \r\na.) it\r\ncame out better than he imagined, but also, he said, “No, it would be\r\nimpossible for me to imagine the way it will come out.”  He\r\n said, “Yes, I story-boarded it, I\r\nhad a plan, but then I work with an army of great artists and I want all\r\n of\r\nthem to create inside that creation.” \r\nAnd so as a director, as a leader, and myself as a director and a\r\nleader, I kind of try to make sure that we hold onto the vision and kind\r\n of\r\ncorral it, but by the time you finish whatever the project is, a TV \r\nshow, a\r\nseries, a movie, a stage show, it should be a product of what all those \r\npeople\r\ncan do, and therefore, it can never be what you imagined it would be in \r\nthe\r\nbeginning.  And it should be\r\nsomething that only that group of people could’ve made with everybody \r\ninvested. 

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So\r\n in that\r\nsense, I try to emulate his approach of really get the most out of \r\npeople by\r\nallowing them to experiment and certainly allowing people to make\r\nmistakes.  I think in a creative\r\neffort, in any creative effort, you need to, people need to be able to \r\nbe\r\ntaking risks and if it turns out to be a mistake—if it turns out not to \r\nhave\r\nbeen the right choice—that should be applauded, you know, by everybody, \r\nand it\r\nwill come up with another plan. \r\nBut if everybody’s trying to stay safe, then you never really \r\ncreate\r\nsomething new and different and surprising.

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And\r\n so I try to\r\noperate like him in that sense.  My\r\ndad was a very, very gentle soul, I’m probably not quite as gentle, \r\nmaybe, as\r\nhim.  But I certainly try to\r\nrespect people and create an environment where people can flourish.

Recorded on April 8, 2010

Jim Henson knew the value of letting people make mistakes.

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