I thought this was a Tom Cruise urban legend

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In honor of this week’s video release of Mission: Impossible – Fallout, I bring you this tale of an urban legend that wasn’t and what it reminded me about creating truly great content. (No, this post is not sponsored by Paramount Pictures, but I wish it were 🙂

A few weeks ago my brother and I were talking about Fallout, and he claimed that Tom Cruise learned to fly a helicopter and actually flew all the helicopter sequences in this movie. I immediately scoffed and declared there is no way that could be true – flying helicopters is ridiculously hard, and that chase scene goes through canyons and the choppers are right next to each other. (This is not a spoiler because clips of this part dominate the trailer – you can safely keep reading if you haven’t seen it yet).

He then delivered the strongest comeback possible when you’re arguing with a former journalist/current media relations professional: “I’m positive – I read it in the New York Times.”

Sure enough, Cruise trained 16 hours a day for six weeks to learn how to fly a helicopter for the movie. On second look, they shot it so it’s clear he’s actually flying it himself.

Not only that, but the parachuting sequence in the same movie? Cruise did the jump himself, from 25,000 feet. And the director wanted it at dusk, so they could only do one jump a day. And it took ONE HUNDRED AND SIX JUMPS to get the three takes the director wanted for the actual film.

Think how busy someone like Tom Cruise is. He set aside a total of five months just for these two scenes of this movie, which could have been done with stunt doubles and/or special effects.

Well, you say, he gets paid to do it. Not directly – he’s an executive producer on the film, which means he gets paid a cut of the profits. He risked five months of his earning power for just those two scenes. He could’ve been doing another movie. Shoot, he could’ve made more signing autographs at ComicCon over those five months than you or I will make in our lifetimes. In this case, that risk/reward paid off big-time.

First PR lesson I learned from Mission: Impossible – Fallout:

You probably don’t create only one piece of content a year. You should create a steady stream. But every so often – once a year . . . quarterly . . . depends on your resources and responsibilities – you should go all-in to create something awesome. The shareability and memorability will pay off – at the end of the year when you look back on your achievements, that’s what will likely stand out as having made the most impact. Not the accumulated total of your steady stream.

Second PR lesson I learned from Mission: Impossible – Fallout:

When you find a content concept that works, you can keep going back to it again and again and again. Cruise and his production team took a washed-up TV show from the ‘60s that had two things going for it – a catch-phrase (“should you choose to accept it”) and an earworm theme song – and turned it into a six-installment film series that has grossed $3.75 BILLLION.

Enjoy the movie this weekend, and consider whether your commitment to great content measures up to Cruise’s.

Here’s the NY Times article.

This article was originally published on Dec 06, 2018.