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Oscar-Nominated Screenwriter Nick Hornby Expresses Personal Connection to His Business at Handleman Lecture

Dean Sharon F. Matusik and Nick Hornby chatting during the Handleman Lecture

The Ross School of Business welcomed award-winning author and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Nick Hornby as the 2023 Joseph and Sally Handleman Lecture Series speaker on Oct. 10. 

Hornby authored best-selling novels High Fidelity, About A Boy, Fever Pitch, and Juliet Naked, all of which have been adapted into feature films. His latest book, Dickens and Prince: A Particular Kind of Genius, reflects on the similarities in the creative processes of Victorian novelist Charles Dickens and modern American rockstar Prince.

Sharon F. Matusik, Edward J. Frey Dean of Business at Michigan Ross, asked Hornby why he felt compelled to speak with business students.

"I am passionate about my business, which I think is much greater than anyone thinks," said Hornby. "Individual people, the contents of their head, keep thousands of people employed. It is quite extraordinary what an individual can do in the field of business."

Hornby explained that rather than viewing his field as one divided into the separate book, film, and music industries, he believes it should be seen as a ‘person industry’ because of creators' power when making content.

"Artists need to realize that they do have a great deal of power," Hornby said when asked about the recent Writers Guild of America strike. "Spotify without major artists is much less attractive."

Much of the conversation between Matusik and Hornby focused on the uniqueness of his creative style. Hornby offered insight into how he stays true to himself in an ever-changing industry and how he thinks MBA students can do the same as they enter the field of business.

"I think it's very hard to do something that you don't love at all. It's hard if you don't love the product, the people that you're working with, or the imagination that is involved in the type of work that you are doing," Hornby said. "Any job has to involve an element of autobiography and personal connection if it is going to be a career that is long-term."

Hornby believes that the answers to some of the problems that students face today can be found in the work of creators.

"I think any branch of my industry is incredibly helpful. I don't see a problem with MBA students reading fiction, listening to music, or watching movies. All of those people solve problems in some way, both the creators and characters," said Hornby. "If you start to identify a problem that you have, and then that problem is identified in a different form or field altogether, I've found that incredibly helpful."

Matusik closed the event by asking Hornby if he had a final piece of advice for the audience. He urged the audience not to be afraid to fail and to avoid worrying about how things will fall into place in the future.

"You have to discover who you are as people, what you're going to love, what you're going to love thinking about, and how you're going to think about it. Not all of these things will happen immediately," he said.