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Joe Carnahan: “You can literally conquer anything”

I wish I was told that working hard and working smart, are not the same thing. It took me a long time to differentiate those two things. It wasn’t clear till I was much older. I wish I was told that not everyone needs to know your opinion, on everything, at all times. There is […]

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I wish I was told that working hard and working smart, are not the same thing. It took me a long time to differentiate those two things. It wasn’t clear till I was much older. I wish I was told that not everyone needs to know your opinion, on everything, at all times. There is power and confidence, in silence. I wish I was told that I didn’t have to fight for every single inch of an argument and sometimes thinking tactically and long-term, is the way to win hearts and minds. I wish I was told that it’s ok to be scared. Fear can be a tremendous motivator and fuel great success. Finally, I wish I was told that patience is indeed, our finest virtue. With it, you can literally conquer anything.


I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Joe Carnahan, a renowned director & screenwriter (THE GREY, SMOKIN’ ACES, NARC.) This award winning director (including nominations for Independent Spirit Awards and Sundance Grand Jury Prize) helms one of the most anticipated sci-fi films of the year with BOSS LEVEL with Grillo as a retired special forces soldier that gets stuck in a time loop on the day of his death. As he keeps repeating the day, he’s forced to battle various assassins while also trying to figure out what’s going on. The film also stars Mel Gibson, Naomi Watts, Michelle Yeoh, Annabelle Wallis, Ken Jeong and former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/f7f040befbeb8fd595c22da3cfd086b3


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

I grew up in central Michigan and moved to Northern California in 1983 as a teenager. We were your typical lower income, working class family and certainly struggled at times but by and large, I had a great childhood. My younger brother and I were inseparable and always playing football or basketball. We also read a lot. My mother gave us our love of art and culture.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I saw Raiders Of The Lost Ark when I was 11 years old and it transformed my way of thinking about my future. I wanted to direct. Writing was my way into that world. I still consider myself first and foremost, a writer. That is how I approach directing to this day.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

I went snowmobiling with Tom Cruise at his place in Telluride and flipped my sled over and was buried in about three feet of snow. He pulled me out, laughing hysterically.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Everyday people fascinate me. The people you happen upon with no pretext or pretense about who or what they’re about and then the sometimes wonderful and dynamic discussions that result.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I had a wonderful professor in College named Roger Vail, who was also an accomplished photographer. He looked at a short film I did once and said: “That’s terrible. If you’re going to do this, then do it right.” And that lesson has never left me. It was candid and blunt and exactly what I needed at that time.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Jeffrey Katzenberg famously said about Hollywood: “In this town they live to see you fail and if you die in the process, it’s all the better.” I think that quote is spot on and it basically says, don’t allow treachery and ill will to sideline you. Stay in the fight because ultimately the only person rooting for you, is you. Also, another great quote. The hall of fame running back for the Detroit Lions, Barry Sanders, had the routine of handing the ball to the referee, every time he scored a touchdown, rather than the traditional celebratory “TD dance”. When asked about why he politely handed the ball to the ref, Sanders replied. “Well, that would be rude, since I’m coming back.” Meaning, he was going to score again and again, so why make a big deal out of it. I love that story.

I am very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I think it’s the backbone of who we are as a country and if we reflect that in our art, then there never needs to be this argument about why were not representing it. I think it’s vital and crucial and evolutionary.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I just finished a film called COPSHOP and I have a movie BOSS LEVEL coming out on March 5th on HULU.

Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?

That I’m able to do this work, at all. It’s a very rarified place, to be able to make a living making movies and being able to express yourself in a medium with a global reach. It never ceases to amaze and astonish me. I consider myself extremely lucky to still be doing it at a high level.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I wish I was told that working hard and working smart, are not the same thing. It took me a long time to differentiate those two things. It wasn’t clear till I was much older. I wish I was told that not everyone needs to know your opinion, on everything, at all times. There is power and confidence, in silence. I wish I was told that I didn’t have to fight for every single inch of an argument and sometimes thinking tactically and long-term, is the way to win hearts and minds. I wish I was told that it’s ok to be scared. Fear can be a tremendous motivator and fuel great success. Finally, I wish I was told that patience is indeed, our finest virtue. With it, you can literally conquer anything.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would simply encourage kindness and compassion. With those things, understanding and empathy take root and with all four, you can cure what ills this planet. There is no magic wand solution or cheat sheet. There is simply all of us, as individuals, deciding to go out into the world, every single day and exercise goodness and a generosity of spirit toward one another.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I’m a big F1 fan and I think Lewis Hamilton is the best driver to ever sit behind the wheel. He inspires me with his effortless aplomb and greatness and his temperament and performance under pressures is to be admired and studied.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Carnojoe on Instagram

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!


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