Why 'Ghostbusters' Should Be Every Entrepreneur's Favorite Movie
Who ya gonna call for inspiration? Ghostbusters.
The blockbuster comedy is set for re-release later this summer, marking 30 years since it hit the theaters. It is the quintessential summer movie -- filled with action, laughs and slime.
It is also the biggest film ever made about the triumph of the American entrepreneur.
First, in the words of Philip Klein from the Washington Examiner, Ghostbusters is "the most libertarian Hollywood blockbuster ever made." After all, the government was helpless to deal with all of the ghosts terrorizing New York City, but at the same time it was resentful that a private enterprise was charging folks to do just that.
But, beneath the politics of the movie is a story that is true to many entrepreneurs. Ghostbusters is, after all, a company. It is formed and incorporated by scientists Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), who take a risk to leave the cushy life of academia make money on their idea.
To a large extent, they get business wrong. They spend poorly, renting a dilapidated, abadoned firehouse that is out of their price range simply because they like sliding down the fire pole. They buy an old ambulance as their primary vehicle, apparently spending more on the logo than they do on the siren. They hire a secretary even though the phone never rings. And, as they admit, they spend the last of their petty cash on chinese food.
Soon, they have doubts. There are no customers. There are not enough ghosts...yet.
Then they get a call. A real one. And the business suddenly booms. They even adapt to their growth by making a key addition to the executive team, bringing on Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson).
Once cash starts coming in, they turn to marketing and public relations. They are on television news and talk shows. They make the cover of magazines. More business rolls in.
Then, all starts to go wrong when the government steps in. Unlike most Hollywood fare, the real villains of Ghostbusters are the regulators, who dismiss the benefits of the innovation the company provides in favor of strict adherence to the rules. It is the Environmental Protection Agency that shuts down Ghostbusters for not having the right waste-handling permits, ignoring that there are ghosts flying around the city and no other entity fit to deal with them. The EPA shuts down the containment system and releases havoc on New York.
In the climax, only the government allowing the private entrepreneurs to use their technology and innovations can stop the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from destroying the city. (This was, after all, pre-Bloomberg. Mike would have simply banned the Stay-Puft giant for making kids too fat.)
In short, many entrepreneurs are just like Venkman, Stantz and Spengler. They innovate. They take a risk. They struggle and fail. They battle back. They overcome hurdles and they triumph. Sometimes they even get the girl.
And they are often fearless. They ain't afraid of no ghosts.
Ray Hennessey is the former editorial director of Entrepreneur.