What Ghostbusters taught me about collaboration

Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd pose in their Ghostbusters costumes on set

"Scuse me Egon? I believe you said crossing the streams was bad…" -Bill Murray, Ghostbusters

On February 24, 2014, the world became a little less funny. I was born in 1981, and Harold Ramis is a direct link to my funny bone. Caddyshack is my all-time favorite comedy. Released in 1980, it was Harold Ramis’s first directed feature film. Caddyshack taught me to always root for the underdog and to put my trust into a good team. I have seen this movie more times than I can count. In fact, I had to buy it twice because I wore out my first DVD in college (the only other movie with this honor is Evil Dead II). If you haven’t seen Caddyshack, I highly recommend you do so if for no other reason than all its legendary Bill Murray-isms.

When Ghostbusters hit theaters in 1984, I was only 3 years old. The first time I remember seeing the film was when it made its debut on HBO; I was 5. To this day, the opening scene in the New York Public Library still scares me. Please allow me to nerd out here a little bit more. I promise I’m not just being a fanboy but actually making a serious point.

Harold Ramis and Bill Murray have worked together on several films. Meatballs, Stripes and Groundhog Day are all quality motion pictures. However, I think the best example of their partnership is the amazing Ghostbusters.

The script was written by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, and they also starred along with Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis. Originally, the part of Dr. Peter Venkman played by Bill Murray was written for John Belushi, but sadly, John passed away shortly before filming began. Now, here is the amazing part: Harold, Dan, and Bill decided the best way to honor the legacy of John Belushi was to throw out all Dr. Peter Venkman's scripted lines and have Bill improvise them instead. Bill Murray did not work from a script on this film. Awesome right? Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and John Belushi all were Saturday Night Live vets. Harold Ramis grew up on stage at Second City, so improv was really second nature to them. The result: pure comedic gold. The team of Harold, Dan, and Bill worked so well together on screen that they used the script as a starting point but most of their scenes were completely improvised.

Developing a team dynamic similar to the Ghostbusters is not as difficult as you think.

All it takes is a starting point, a comfortable atmosphere, open dialog and, most importantly, not being afraid to fail. When speaking with a client the first time, I try to be as comfortable as possible. I’d rather talk with you than talk to you.I always ask you to take me through the content of your presentation, but I don’t want to be presented to. Let’s stop and take some time to discuss key slides. If you are having trouble conveying a message, let's brainstorm, let's improvise and let’s see where that takes us. I like to treat original presentations much like Harold, Dan, and Bill treated the original Ghostbusters script: as a great starting point. Now how can we improve on it? If there is one important point on a slide, do we really need 7 more bullet points? Can we be impactful rather than literal? Also, it is important for us not to be afraid to fail. I can’t stress this enough. Ghostbusters wasn’t shot in one take. If a graphic does not work, we can talk about it. Why doesn’t it work? Are there ideas here that do work, and can we elaborate on them? I don’t want to think ‘outside of the box.’ I want to take the box out of the equation and see where we go from there. We can make your content sing, but we have to do it together. We are a team. Even if we have not met face-to-face, we can do it together.

In the end, to defeat Gozer the Gozerian, Ray, Egon, Venkman, and Winston had to work together. They couldn’t do it on their own. They had to join forces and risk failure by crossing the streams. Sometimes, crossing the streams is bad. Other times, you destroy Gozer the Gozerian, blow up the 500ft tall Stay Puft Marshmallow man and save the city!

I am really going to miss Harold Ramis.

The Propoint Team

Written by The Propoint Team