Philippe Petit & The Art of Teamwork

“On the morning of August 7 1974 the French artist Philippe Petit walked on a wire hanged between the twin towers… he walked, danced, lay down on the wire, and knelt to salute watchers” Wikipedia

In 2008 a documentary film about this heroic act started gaining fans. Viewers loved this incredible story also as a tribute to the 9/11 attack. The documentary became so popular that Hollywood decided to make a feature happy-film about it, heralded by this amazingly contrived scene (yes it’s awesome but I prefer the real thing – watch the trailer). Try searching Google and you’ll always find him standing alone on the edge/ledge/cable.

Now, I’m not saying Petit isn’t a crazy genius artist, one of the most extraordinary people I have ever heard about. He is. But… What impressed me most about the wire walk story is the amazing team work.

Petit recruited seven collaborators from France, Australia and America. Most imminent was Francis Brunn, a German juggler, who provided financial support for the proposed project and its planning.

Without his collaborators Petit would have been unsuccessful. Dead, for sure.

The team sat for endless brainstorming and planning sessions. They made huge technical and physical efforts on site, and gave Petit the confidence he needed. Petit’s team made this walk on wire possible. They were literally partners in crime, and as accomplices they could have ended up in jail (they police did show up and arrested Petit). 

“I prepare by reducing the unknown to nothing,”

This he told the author and journalist Calvin Tomkins at the New Yorker,
reminding us the behind-the-scene efforts that had been made by his team members.  

I truly recommend watching this documentary by James Marsh a second time, this time looking at the work done by Petit’s crew members.

Also, notice how Petit trusts them, motivates them, and relies on them for His Life.

Then think about the way your team works together. Are you like that?

If you too are aiming high, take inspiration from these guys: Jean-Louis Blondeau, Annie Allix, Jean-François Heckel, Jean-Pierre Dousseau, Jim Moore, and Barry Greenhouse.


Counter clockwise from top left: Jean-Louis Blondeau, Annie Allix, Jean-François Heckel,
Jean-Pierre Dousseau, Jim Moore, Barry Greenhouse, and Philippe Petit. This collage was created by The Reverend Erik Walker Wikstrom. Read his take on the subject – he really inspired me.

“This is not the story of one man overcoming great odds; it is the story of a group of friends working together to do the impossible and to inspire the world.”

Reverend Erik Walker Wikstrom


(Are you the kind of person who reads the footnotes and postscript of articles first? If so, we should be friends 🙂 

PS1- I know the subtitle of this blog gives the impression I’m going to be writing about Rembrandt and Van Gogh. I will, but high-wire walking is also an art, and Petit is its great master. By the way I will be posting a lot more about Cinema, the 7th art, in the future.

PS2-A few biographical facts about Petit (as I said, he’s not the hero of the above story, but he is an artist who has had an inspiring life. And books. and Lectures.):

  1. As a child he was kicked out of five different schools.
  2. He was a disappointment to his father, an ex-army pilot (wonder why Philippe wanted to spend his career up in the air?).
  3. He worked as a street juggler since no circus agreed to take him on – because of his “free style”.

“…I walk it with artistry, with poetry, with meaning, as a piece of theatre, or an opera…”

Philippe Petit


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