Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Interview: Kevin Coupe and Michael Sansolo

Interview with Kevin Coupe and Michael Sansolo, authors of The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies

Joining us today are Kevin Coupe and Michael Sansolo, authors of The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies. We’ll talk to the authors about this book, the lessons businesses can apply to be successful, and what the authors will be working on next.

Welcome Kevin and Michael. We are excited to have you here. Can you please tell our readers a bit about yourself?

We have an almost silly history together. We grew up in the same town in suburban New York, had parents who worked together in the same school system, worked for the same group of newspapers right out of college and both went to work for trade magazines covering the supermarket industry. And in all that time we never met! One night at a cocktail reception in Nashville we stumbled into our entwined histories and nearly passed out.

We both have traveled the world working with the food industry, learning incredible things about business and consumer issues by studying how people eat, shop and cook. But that’s only a piece of the story. We both love sports, kids and good times. And we’ll search like Indiana Jones for legends of a great hamburger and a local brewery.

Is this your first collaboration?

Given our history, we have a long path of collaboration. We have jointly authored articles in a range of magazines and we regularly do joint speeches for industry and college meetings. Most importantly, we work together on a fairly successful daily business website—although Kevin does most of the work and Michael just dives in weekly with a column.

Kevin has three kids and Michael has two, but those collaborations came with our wives. (They’d want us to say that.)

What made you two decide to write The Big Picture?

We believe that story telling is essential to business and personal success. Great companies and great individuals have a narrative they tell about themselves. And people around them remember those narratives because humans remember stories much better than we remember details.

Our hope for the book is that all kinds of business people—CEOs to front line employees—can find lessons that help them build and tell a narrative. Movies help us find more powerful narratives because a great movie tells a great story. And we believe any movie—from a legendary award winner to a light comedy—can be part of this lesson.

Are either of you or both of you big movie buffs?

Seriously, we couldn’t write this book without being movie buffs. We had to rely on a wealth of memories from a lifetime of movie libraries in our heads. What we think really helps the book is that we like and utilize all kinds of movies. Believe it or not, there are great lessons in movies like Young Frankenstein or The Wedding Singer.

And we knew we had to select unexpected movies. Kevin wrote about Bottle Shock, a little-known movie about the California wine industry that really speaks to the importance of passion and belief in yourself. And Michael wrote about Sex and the City, which earned him endless mocking from Kevin, yet both of us believe the movie delivers a powerful lesson on personal relations and a willingness to listen.

The entertainment industry is a huge business. There must be a wealth of information to be shared about business success. Is there anything that surprised you during your research for The Big Picture?

Doing the book has changed us and those around us. Neither of us can watch a movie now without searching for a lesson on business or personal growth. And it’s funny to watch our children adopt a similar mentality. Plus they constantly challenge us to discuss movies as soon as we leave.

The big surprise is how universal this lesson can be. Every group we talk to produces the same reaction. People come to us after and talk about their favorite movie and the lesson it gives them. People draw great comfort and inspiration from these movies and they thank us for giving voice to something they always felt in their heads.

Honestly, we believe anyone can find that inner story and that movies will help. Your movie may not be in our book, but our book will help you think about it.

Can you give us a couple of examples from your book about lessons from movies that businesses can use to be successful?

That’s what we live for.

Let’s start with a powerful lesson in branding from the brutal crime movie American Gangster. It’s a movie about a heroin dealer in New York City, but every business can learn from it. In one powerful scene, Denzel Washington confronts a dealer who is altering the product and, in essence, cheapening it. Washington reminds the dealer that the brand name on the drugs stands for something and ruining that name ruins the product. There’s a lesson in there that so many companies should learn because too often brand equity is damaged through line extensions, shoddy quality and a general drop in quality. We shouldn’t learn lessons from a drug dealer, but here we do.

In a very different vein, the wonderful children’s movie Babe talks to us about the importance of breaking out of the box. Babe is a pig who doesn’t know how a pig is supposed to behave and he wants to be a sheep dog. What’s more, he’s a great sheep dog because he doesn’t know there are rules about how the dogs and sheep interact. Instead he succeeds with manners, persistence and kindness. The big lesson is that others always tell us to stay within the lines and sometimes we need to believe in ourselves to go where no one expects us.

What was the most challenging aspect of working on this project? The most rewarding?

Writing a book is a large undertaking, even when you share the work with a co-author. But nothing worth doing is done easily and this book wasn’t easy.

But there is so little to complain about in preparing the book. We both love movies, love writing and love searching for lessons. There were days we couldn’t wait to talk about the movies we were watching because the lessons excited us so much.

However, the most rewarding part is the response of readers. People have told us about how a specific chapter has helped in difficult personal situations or in business. The ability to touch and help someone is rewarding beyond belief.

Where can readers purchase a copy of The Big Picture?

The obvious location, of course, is But you can order directly through our publisher at Brigantine Media is a small publisher so the customer service is off the charts wonderful.

What is up next for the two of you? Will you be collaborating on additional projects?

We collaborate all the time. Since we do so much public speaking, we’ll be out talking about business issues and the book for months to come. And we’re both very optimistic that our first book will lead to follow up articles and possibly another book. The notion of finding lessons in the obvious and organizing those lessons into useful reading is what we hope to deliver.

We have been together too long to think that any project will be the last. Plus, we shouldn’t miss this chance to say that we’d love to collaborate as players for the New York Mets, although that isn’t likely to help the Mets very much. But we’d enjoy it.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Thanks for the opportunity to be part of this blog interview. We seriously hope people find our writing helpful to them in many ways, both at work and for life in general.

We really believe the lesson of this book. We think finding a narrative and learning to tell it can be helpful to everyone.

Most importantly though, we think it’s critically important that people find a way to pursue passions at work and beyond. You might not be able to work on exactly what you want so find a way outside of work to pursue your dreams. We’ve both worked very hard for many years to build individual businesses that allow us to work on what we like.

You can find more information about each of us at or And we welcome feedback about the book.

Thank you for spending time with us today, gentlemen. Your book sounds like it will be very helpful to business today. We wish you great success.

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ccmalandrinos is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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