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3 Tips from the man who turned Robin Hood into the 2nd Highest Grossing Film of 1991

Back in the early 90s, a struggling writer/producer by the name of John Watson had a screenplay that completely reimagined the legend of Robin Hood. In John’s version, Robin was a warrior of noble blood who returns from the Crusades to find that the home he knew is now rampant with corruption.

It was a bold reinvention that caught the eye of Hollywood and landed John two very different offers.

One of the largest studios offered him a “mind-blowing” amount of money for the screenplay but would shut John out of producing and all further involvement. The other offer was from a smaller studio for far less money, but in this deal, John could stay on as producer. The second option came with greater risk, but John ultimately left the money on the table and went with the second option anyway.

The bold choice turned out to be the right one. The film became the second highest-grossing film of 1991, amassing $390 Million at the box office.

Here are a few key pieces of advice we can learn from John’s incredible success:

  • Trust your gut. There are few things as flattering as a suitcase full of cash for something you’ve created. But money isn’t everything. If your gut is telling you something else, you should probably listen to it. In John’s case, turning away the up-front cash ultimately earned him opportunities for more projects (and more revenue) down the road, positioning him as one of the hottest young writer/producers in Hollywood.
  • Don’t lose sight of your goals. When John set out to write Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, he didn’t just want to write a screenplay. He wanted to make a movie. As entrepreneurs, there may be times when we’re offered a substantial amount of money to hand over the reins. But sometimes sticking to your plan can pay off in the long run.
  • Follow your passion. John is an exceptional writer. But he also had a passion for producing. He knew that if he walked away from the project simply as a writer, his career as a producer would be hard to get off the ground. So, he stuck to his guns and kept the door open to a career as a producer.

Although not all of us have choices as extreme as the one John faced, we can certainly learn from his experience.

When it comes to strategy, sometimes the quick win isn’t worth the cost to your long-term goals.

To hear the full 20-minute episode “Making the Hollywood Blockbuster Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”, listen wherever you get your podcasts

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