I’ve been champing at the bit to see Danny Boyle’s latest film, Yesterday… but then you would too if you had the pleasure of spending some time with him.

He’s a master storyteller. And something he told me 15 years ago is reverberating in today’s increasingly time-poor world, inside and outside of work.

While at The Salt Lake Tribune… which is still he best newspaper job I ever had… I got to cover the Toronto International Film Festival three times.

On my final trip, in 2004, I had done quite a few interviews with various actors and directors. And I didn’t really fancy having to chase down more publicists as the festival drew to a close.

But one day in a lift, I engaged in some small talk with a total stranger.

Me: “So… you here for the festival?”

Stranger: “Yeah, I’ve got a film.”

Me: “Showing in the festival?”

Stranger: “Yeah. It’s called Millions.”

Before he had a chance to tell me more, I blurted out:


It was possibly my most embarrassing fanboy moment ever.

But thankfully Boyle chuckled while breaking out in a big smile… and didn’t call the cops.

I told him that I had been trying to line up an interview with him, but the publicist wouldn’t put me on the list.

Oftentimes, the smaller regional papers found it hard to get one-on-ones with “the talent”.

But now I had his ear. 

Me: “I’m from The Salt Lake Tribune, and, of course, you made A Life Less Ordinary in Utah. Is there any chance I can interview you?”

Boyle: “I’ve got the premiere this evening. But you come to ‘X’ hotel tomorrow at noon and I’ll sort you out.”

I went to the premiere of Millions that evening, and it’s a delightful film for all ages. Check it out if you haven’t seen it.

So the next day, when I went to the hotel, as I arrived at reception I saw Boyle with the older of the two child stars of Millions… and the publicist.

She was a little surprised to see me there, to say the least.

And Boyle knew it.  

It was a little awkward.

Me: “So, you still OK for it.”

Boyle: “Can you come back and meet me here at 5?”

The publicist twigged.  

And she wasn’t happy.  

She made sure to give me an earful as I left the hotel.

I bumped into her again at 5 that evening, as she glided through reception with her carry-on for the plane… and an icy glare for me.

But when we settled down for our chat, Boyle was charming company for around 40 minutes, which is a lot of time to get for a one-on-one.

But it was what he told me during our conversation that will really stick with me.

And it’s a good life lesson for storytellers in film… or the workplace and boardroom… to remember.

Millions is about two young boys coping with the recent death of their mother when their father moves them to a new town.  

Their life is turned upside down in another way too when they discover a bag full of money that must be spent in a matter of days before Britain switches to the euro. (Oh, the irony, 15 years later.)

The younger boy, seven-year-old Damien, is having a hard time adjusting to life without his mum but finds comfort in conversations with various saints.

Boyle, who was brought up Catholic by his Irish-born parents, told me: “He’s interested in the saints because it’s obvious his mum’s died, so you tend to, like you do, you’d think your mum’s a saint.”

He added: “The film’s about faith, but not in the religious sense of the word – it’s in the temporal, human sense of the word. It’s about having faith in other people and believing in people and trusting if you do that, that good will come out of them in some way, eventually. And I believe that, yeah.”

And the other week, in an interview for Yesterday, he told the Guardian:  “Well, I’m a positive person.  And I suppose that makes me a positive film-maker. I feel an obligation to lift people somewhere else with my films. And I believe in the inherent goodness of human beings. That’s naive – I recognise that. But it’s what keeps me going through the bad times.”

And that’s really what the best stories touch on, whether they’re told in viral videos, on the web in content marketing, or in speeches by CEOs.

I emphasize this point in my StoriesforBiz.com workshops.

Because we’re all in this together.

And we learn to survive by relying on each other.

That’s how successful businesses work.

And it’s how true leaders lead.

#yesterdaymovie #dannyboyle #storytelling #speechwriting #leadership #kindness #contentmarketing #copywriting #communications #thoughtleadership  

Danny Boyle on the set of Millions with his two child stars, Lewis McGibbon and Alex Etel

Danny Boyle on the set of Millions with his two child stars, Lewis McGibbon and Alex Etel