‘Do what you love,’ don’t be afraid to be ‘stupid’


In the early 1980s, Larry O’Reilly and Bruce Morrison were floor mates in Laurier’s C.H. Little House. 25 years later, the two WLU alumni are among the major players in the film industry.

O’Reilly, the president of worldwide sales for IMAX, and Morrison, the senior vice-president of retail sales and marketing for Disney were back in K-W Tuesday night, giving advice on breaking into the movie industry — or any industry for that matter — at Laurier’s “The Business of Film” event, co-hosted by the film studies department and the School of Business and Economics.

O’Reilly and Morrison were joined by noted Canadian filmmaker and producer Toni Myers.

All three speakers shared their experiences breaking into the film business, while giving the packed house at Kitchener’s Empire Theatres tips on starting a career.

The most common theme in the three speakers’ advice was quite simple.

“Do what you love,” said O’Reilly. “You work too many hours for you to hate your job.”

This sentiment was echoed by both Morrison and Myers, with Morrison stressing the importance of “hav[ing] some fun” over the course of a career.

The two WLU alumni who spoke at the event each had anything but a conventional road to getting where they are today.

When O’Reilly was a recent grad he came across a job in the want ads of the Globe and Mail, for which he didn’t meet any of the qualifications. After being turned down for an interview by IMAX’s human resources department, he tracked down then vice president Mike McGrath and got himself on the list as the 41st interviewee.

Still ‘unqualified’ for the position, O’Reilly managed to get onto the shortlist of the final candidates for the job.

“What they really needed was a salesman. I convinced them that the qualifications were wrong,” said O’Reilly. “20 years later, here I am.”

Morrison, meanwhile, got a job with Hallmark shortly after graduating from Laurier’s business program. However, despite getting promoted to the company’s head offices in Toronto, he didn’t stick with Hallmark very long.

“I was with Hallmark and then I did my stupid thing,” said Morrison. “But everyone has to do their stupid thing.”

For Morrison, that “stupid thing” was getting involved in a startup that called for him to move to Costa Rica. However, it quickly became apparent that this Costa Rican venture wasn’t exactly what it was advertised to be.

“It turned out the guy I went to work for had no money,” laughed Morrison. “He had actually moved to Costa Rica to escape his creditors.”

Once out of money in Costa Rica, Morrison moved back to Canada — and back in with his parents — and, much like O’Reilly, answered a want add for a company called BDA. It turned out BDA stood for Buena Vista-Astral, the Canadian arm of Disney.

Morrison got a job selling Disney VHS tapes, which he calls “the easiest thing I’v ever done,” and after his job took him from Los Angeles to northwest Arkansas, back to LA, he settled into Disney’s executive team.

On top of the importance of enjoying a career, the speakers also stressed taking chances.

“Work hard, be bold,” said O’Reilly. “When you work hard and you take chances, good luck seems to come your way.”

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