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Energy beats talent

In 1942, Montgomery took over the Eighth Army.

They were disillusioned, demoralised, defeated.

They’d just been kicked all the way across North Africa by Rommel.

They were just waiting for the inevitable final defeat.

Montgomery arrived with a simple brief from Churchill.

Get a victory, by any means necessary.

Any means.

Montgomery realised, before he stood a chance of beating the enemy, he had to conquer his own troops.

He had to put some spine into them.

He had to make them believe they could actually win.

He began shaking things up, doing everything differently.

Driving everywhere, making sure everyone saw him.

Always wearing a tank beret, not a General’s outfit.

Letting everyone know exactly what he was asking them to do.

But not just by saying it, by doing it.

Making sure even the lowest ranks knew what the job was, and their part in it.

Suddenly Montgomery was everywhere.

Checking on everything, changing everything, talking to everyone.

Making sure they knew that this time, they’d have enough of the right kind of weapons and supplies.

Incredibly, this one man lifted the moral of an entire army.

Belief filtered down from the top.

Men were reinvigorated by his energy.

Under Montgomery, the Eighth Army won the The Battle of El Alamein.

It wasn’t a brilliant piece of strategy.

It was a tough, ugly win.

But it was a win.

And, after that, they kept on winning.

Montgomery turned it around.

Not by tactical brilliance, Rommel was a far better General, with far better equipment.

Montgomery did it by energising his army.

So their concentration wasn’t on Rommel anymore.

It was on Montgomery.

He had more energy, and moved faster, and he wasn’t waiting for anyone.

I noticed the same thing when I was a young copywriter at BMP.

I’d go on shoots and watch how directors worked.

Shoots with most directors were always pretty laid back.

The directors would be lying on the ground, looking at the set from different angles.

While the crew played cards, drank tea, read The Sun.

When the director eventually made a decision, the crew would wander over and have a chat about what was wanted.

Then they’d move the camera to the new position.

Then go back to reading The Sun.

But there was one director who was the exact opposite of that.

Tony Scott.

All the crew were on their toes, watching Tony’s every move, waiting to see what he’d do.

Because he didn’t waste a second.

He was a bundle of energy.

He’d move around, pick a spot, then pick the camera up and carry it to where he wanted.

He wouldn’t wait for anyone.

If the crew weren’t quick he’d do their jobs.

Which meant they might not have a job.

Not if the producer saw Tony picking the camera up and carrying it.

The crew would get a massive bollocking for not paying attention.

And the producer would get a different crew next time.

So the entire crew were on their toes around Tony Scott.

Making sure they were ready to do it before he did it himself.

The mood on Tony’s shoots was totally different.

Everyone was working, everyone was up, no one was bored.

His energy made him direct more ads than just about anyone else in London.

It took him to Hollywood where he made hit film after hit film.

He’s now one of the most prolific, most successful directors in the world.

And one of the hardest working.

Sure, Tony Scott is a talented director, but more importantly he knew what Montgomery knew.

Energy beats talent.

A tribute to Tony Scott, a creative visionary.

This originally ran on Dave Trott’s Blog in June.

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