Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire has plenty of memorable scenes, little moments that have lodged in pop-culture consciousness long after we've all forgotten the particulars of the movie. "You had me at hello." "Show me the money." "Did you know the human head weighs eight pounds?" But one of the most unforgettable scenes isn't a throwaway quote, but the inciting incident, as sports agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) has a moral epiphany and writes a sprawling mission statement imploring his agency to get back to basics and focus on why they chose their field in the first place. In the movie, it gets Maguire fired and sets the entire storyline in motion.
One thing you might not know is that that plot point was, according to Cameron Crowe, inspired by a 1991 memo from then-head of Disney, Jeffrey Katzenberg. Like Maguire, Katzenberg was disenchanted with the state of his business and disheartened by the blockbuster mentality behind movies such as Dick Tracy. He had his say -- 28 pages' worth -- in a legendary memo that has been passed around and discussed ever since. Three years later, Katzenberg left to co-found DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen.
Now, thanks to Letters of Note, you can read the infamous memo in its entirety. It's a weighty read, but here are a couple of highlights:
It's a fascinating read, and one that's just as, or possibly even more, timely now as it was originally written. His conclusions about the supposed "recession-proof" nature of the movie business have been proven all too true as the years have wound on and ever more types of media have competed with films for the attention of potential moviegoers. And keep in mind, this was written before the internet was a significant factor. Sadly, many of the issues he addresses -- such as the mentality that a movie has to be a hit during its opening weekend -- have only gotten worse, not better.
It's definitely worth a read, and in this age of countless prequels and sequels, reboots and remakes, Katzenberg's clarion call for good stories, executed well, should be required reading for many a tremulous and risk-averse studio exec.
Here's the "Mission Statement" scene from Jerry Maguire that this memo inspired:
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