How to Be Liked

Posted by on April 1, 2013

Harry_Chandler_Connie_530The Private Advice of Harry Connick, Jr.

Chandler Canterbury is a child actor with a dazzling future.

Immediately following the world premiere of When Angels Sing, a not-yet-released movie young Canterbury made with Willie Nelson, Connie Britton, Lyle Lovett, Fionnula Flanagan, Kris Kristofferson and Harry Connick, Jr., Harry grabbed a microphone and told a funny story about his first encounter with Chandler.

But Harry C. Jr. told an even better story privately.

“Chandler and I were hanging out between scenes,” Harry said, “when he looked at me and said, ‘What’s the secret of being popular? How do you get people to like you?'”

An interesting question, don’t you think? Most of us would have responded by saying “Just be yourself,” or “Popularity is overrated,” or some other such claptrap. But Harry believes in answering questions as asked. So the astoundingly popular actor and musician looked young Chandler in the eyes and said,

“The secret of being liked is to always ask 5 questions before you say anything about yourself. People won’t remember what you said about yourself, but they’ll always remember what you asked about them.”

Harry then let Chandler practice asking him different kinds of ice-breaking questions until the young man finally mastered the art.

It kind of makes you wish Harry Connick, Jr. had taken you under his wing when you were a kid, doesn’t it?

The bigger story, though, is the movie itself. Turk Pipkin wrote When Angels Sing as a story to be read to his friends and family each Christmas. Year after year, Turk would pull those sheaves of dog-eared paper out of a shoebox and read the story to a roomful of friends who would faithfully gather to hear it.

And each Christmas, the crowd got bigger.

One year, Fred Miller was in the room. Among his other accomplishments, Fred was executive producer of For All Mankind, that miraculous film documenting the Apollo space missions from 1968 to 1972. When released in 1989, For All Mankind was selected as the Audience Favorite and the Grand Jury Winner at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award.

That same Fred Miller jumped up and said, “This story needs to be made into a movie.” Then Elizabeth Avellan – producer of 30 movies including the Spy Kids franchise – got on board. Following Elizabeth was Shannon McIntosh, executive in charge of post-production for Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar-winning Inglourious Basterds (2009) and executive producer of this year’s Oscar-winning Django Unchained (2012.)

And now you want to invite Fred Miller to your Christmas party, right?

When Willie and Harry and Connie and Lyle and Fionnula and Kris heard about the project and read the screenplay, each of them volunteered to make the film for a teeny-tiny fraction of the prices they typically command. Each of them knew in their heart this film was a magical Christmas card that would cause tens of millions of people to have happier holidays for decades to come. And each of them wanted to be part of a movie that said, “Merry Christmas. You are loved.”

Hollywood desperately wants to gain control of this film but the actors and producers aren’t sure they want Hollywood to have it. During a laughter-filled afternoon on the campus of Wizard Academy a few days ago, the general feeling of the producers was to possibly try and repay the $17,000,000 it cost to make this movie by crowdfunding through Kickstarter.

I’m not sure whether the Kickstarter thing will happen, but I can definitely tell you that everyone who was involved in the making of When Angels Sing looks at this not-yet-released movie the same way old hippies look at Woodstock, “I was there. I was part of it. And it was magic.”

The iconic Willie Nelson celebrates his 80th birthday in a few days. And although this might sound ridiculous today, I believe it’s entirely possible that 20 years from now When Angels Sing will be the thing for which Willie is best remembered.

Merry Christmas, friend. You are loved.

Roy H. Williams

One Response to How to Be Liked

  1. Mark Quinn

    What a great rule of thumb when meeting people, to ask them 5 questions. Thanks for sharing that, I will put it into practice.

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