Non-Transactional Friendships with Oscar-Winning Producer Barnet Bain (What Dreams May Come)

In this episode of Extraordinary Focus, David Wood interviews Barnet Bain, an Oscar-winner of “What Dreams May Come” (producer), renowned filmmaker, author, and educator. Barnett shares key insights on authentic conversations, effective leadership, and transformational relationships. He then shares how he maintains integrity while navigating tough conversations in the entertainment industry and how non-transactional friendships can improve the way we relate to others.

Giving for the joy of giving, without expectation, creates a different kind of friendship.

– Barnet Bain

Prepare to transform your understanding of relationships as you tap into Barnet’s experiences and discover invaluable lessons for your business journey.

  • How does Barnet navigate tough conversations in the entertainment industry while maintaining integrity?
  • What insights can be gained from the parallels between directing scenes and effective leadership?
  • How can truthful and edgy conversations contribute to personal growth and deeper connections in professional and personal relationships?
  • What valuable lessons in GIVING can we learn from Barnet’s experiences, forever shifting our understanding of relationships?
  • How can non-transactional friendships transform the way we relate to others in business?

Barnet Bain is a Canadian filmmaker, author, and educator. He has worked on films like “What Dreams May Come” and “Homeless to Harvard.” Barnet conducts creativity workshops and teaches at Columbia University and the Esalen Institute, emphasizing spirituality and personal growth. He also partners with the ‘Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation’ to share his creative content with a wide audience.

To learn more about Barnet, visit here.

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Barnet Bain: [00:00:00] Give to you for the joy of giving to you. I desire to desire for you to be happy. I would like you to be fulfilled. I have no expectations. I have no agendas about it. Except that I would like to reduce your strife and striving in the world.

David Wood: [00:00:23] Welcome high performing entrepreneurs and business owners. Do you suffer from shiny object syndrome? Do you often feel scattered and distracted, making it hard to implement your plan with all the ideas and strategies coming at you? Do you often wonder if you have the right goals and plan? Welcome to Extraordinary Focus with David Wood, where we help you achieve way more in less time. Get the laser focus you need so you can double your business, double your impact in the world, and be an even more extraordinary entrepreneur and human. Let’s dive in and stay tuned at the end for your gift.

David Wood: [00:00:59] Welcome back to another episode. And this one is particularly exciting for me because this is a colleague and friend and also I’ve been interviewing leaders, but now because I’m so interested in the entertainment industry, now that I’m here in Hollywood, I’m interviewing leaders in the entertainment industry, and this man definitely qualifies. Barnet Bain is a Canadian filmmaker, author and educator. Some of his film credits include Milton’s Secret, uh, the Oscar winner What Dreams May Come, one of my favorite movies. And I just did a scene from that in class. It was very, very difficult. Um. Emmy Award nominee, homeless to Harvard and the self esteem Prophecy, which I did not know that you were involved in that. We’re going to have to talk about that. Barnett consults and trains business leaders and private clients who are committed to high performance. Through his creativity workshops, Barnett guides people of all ages and walks of life to expand their vision of what is possible and develop their gifts and talents with passion. Barnett Bain, welcome to the show.

Barnet Bain: [00:02:13] Pleasure to be here with you, David. Good to see you.

David Wood: [00:02:16] You too. You too. Haven’t seen you since we had lunch at in Malibu. Yeah. Is there anything I just read a little bit about you? Is there anything that comes to mind that you would like listeners to know about you that I didn’t say?

Barnet Bain: [00:02:36] Well, I can’t think of anything that I would add to that. There’s a whole life there that is on set. So, yeah, yeah.

David Wood: [00:02:45] I did like reading in your bio that you’re a faculty member at Columbia. The Spirituality Mind Body Institute and the Esalen Institute. Do you know Susan Campbell?

Barnet Bain: [00:02:59] No, I’m sorry. I don’t know her. I don’t know her.

David Wood: [00:03:02] She wrote a book called Getting Real, and she’s been involved in Esalen for probably like 60 years or something. I thought maybe you would have known her. Um, let’s talk about this. There’s so much. Let’s start with truth. Since I’m a big fan of speaking truth. And this is called tough conversations. You I would consider a leader in Hollywood and the entertainment industry. What are some moments where you’ve had to say something difficult to someone that was edgy and other people might have stayed quiet, but you spoke up, either made a bold request or you said no to something, or you had to share something with someone and give them maybe some feedback that they probably didn’t want to hear. I’m interested in your success in spite of integrity or because of integrity.

Barnet Bain: [00:03:58] A really interesting question. Really interesting. Thank you for asking it. So I have found that the difficult conversations are internal and that very often I can point to places in the past. And present as well. Where? My own unexamined. Um. Fixed ideas about things where I am protecting a point of view. Uh, those. That’s what principally gets in the way of operating smoothly in the world and working in collaboration with others. It’s really, um, having a sense of what my own fixed positions are and what I might be protecting. For example, I can remember a time making a film and I felt. Um, I felt they didn’t really know. I didn’t feel confident. I didn’t really know how to meet a particular situation. And so I remember hearing input. From crew members and being. And being brusque about it and cutting it off as really it was a way I realized this is a way to. Um. Pretend authority. To bluff authority. And what would be what is much more impactful is to be authentic and truly vulnerable and recognize that I felt overwhelmed and that I welcomed some input on that. And so. The difficult conversations are almost always internal. And then creating a boundary. Setting a limit outside that is not difficult at all. I can’t recall. Those conversations as being difficult. You have conversations as authentically and vulnerably as one can and with a sense of where you’re really coming from. And you do it as graciously as possible. It’s not always difficult. What is difficult is why we make it difficult.

David Wood: [00:06:56] I like I resonate with what you said about the blustering is the word that comes to mind where you’re like trying to control and show that you know everything and then you realize that you are overwhelmed. Were you able to say that and say, you know, I’m actually overwhelmed and that’s why I haven’t been taking input And tell me what you got. Was that a transparent moment?

Barnet Bain: [00:07:19] You know, it’s sometimes sometimes I am more successful. There is a kind of velocity of integrity, I call it. There is a speed of integrity. How quickly can I integrate? How quickly can I assemble the fragmented parts of myself inauthentic or triggered or responsive or reactive? How quickly can I identify, recognize, acknowledge that, forgive it and pull it back? And sometimes it’s. Sometimes it’s appropriate. To speak it. But more often than not, it’s not necessary to announce it. It’s just. It’s critical. To move through it and to integrate and be real and authentic and come from the core place. And communicate from there. And then the conversations are not generally difficult. Sometimes they’re uncomfortable. You don’t want to consciously. Um, wound anybody or hurt somebody. Um, and as long as that’s not the intention. Does it necessarily make it all warm and fuzzy? But as long as that’s not one’s intention, you can’t really can’t ask of anyone or of yourself to do better than that.

David Wood: [00:08:52] I like two points in there. Firstly, the velocity of integrity. Love that I like to say sometimes I am eventually very honest. And yeah, you’re not going to spot it all. Some things you might spot ten years later and then you have a chance to go back and clean it up. Um, when did the Landmark Forum, they said, look, these forum leaders, we, we have racquets, we, we, we have stuff all the time. We’re just getting faster at it, faster at seeing it and then speaking it. And then the second point you raised is sometimes you don’t need to say it to the other person. You may realize, Oh, I’m just not taking input here. I’m I’m blustering. I’m doing this. You’re the only one that who actually needs to see it. And then you can just change your behavior. Say, you know what? I realize I haven’t been listening. What do you got?

Barnet Bain: [00:09:51] And the change of behavior is everything. People, they attune to it. Once you change the behavior and you’re coming from an authentic place. Um, people can sense the energy of that. They don’t require the announcement. They can hear things that are not always comfortable, but they can hear it is coming from an honest place, not a dominating place, not a brusque place. You know, in our culture, particularly among leaders, there is a it is fashionable. Do you have rough edges and sharp elbows? It’s very fashionable. Certainly fashionable in the entertainment industry. It’s fashionable in the tech industry, and I suspect it’s fashionable. Everywhere. As we get we move up the hierarchy or the hierarchy of control. If we get into c-suites and things, people have sharp elbows and they pride themselves on it. That’s unfortunate.

David Wood: [00:10:58] Mhm. But there’s so much going through my mind as a teacher. One of the gurus that I would go and sit with, he said he used to knock knock the door down. That was his way. And then he said, as he’s gotten older, he tends to gently caress the door and see if someone wants to open it. And and even then I still saw him jump on a few people and I was one of them. But with Bio and Katie. Uh, who lives quite close to you and me. I have. I have never seen her jump on anyone. I know it’s happened. I heard once it happened, but I’ve never seen a rough edge at all. It’s just pure love. And I aspire to that.

Barnet Bain: [00:11:47] Beautiful.

David Wood: [00:11:48] Yeah. That’s who I want to follow. Um, it’s that rough edge thing. Yeah, it’s interesting. I do like it when I see someone who doesn’t pull their punches and they speak very straight. Uh, one of the teachers here where I’m training at the Beverly Hills Playhouse is known for, like, boom. But it doesn’t seem unkind. There’s no unkindness in it. I think he’s coming from a good place. He’s just here’s my opinion. Here’s my opinion. Here’s my opinion.

Barnet Bain: [00:12:16] Well, you know, the thing about directing, right? And I’m also a director and. A director is. It’s not always about having a conversation. So you’re right. Be open to input. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to activate or actualize all input. You want to be open to input and you also want to reserve the right not to have to respond to that input because. Right. And time is of the essence. And, you know, as a director, you’re operating with considerations that are not available to everybody. Not everybody knows what your considerations are. Right. He knows. What the subtext of a scene is. Only the director knows what the subtext of the scene is and shares it or doesn’t share it with whomever he or she pleases. The actor, of course, the director and the actor are on the same page vis a vis the subtext, but it is the director who brings to the words the subtext. And that’s true not only in the theater or in film, but it’s true in leadership. It’s true in the way organizations are run. It’s true in the way teams or corporations are run. It’s true in everything. It’s true in.

David Wood: [00:13:49] Parenting.

Barnet Bain: [00:13:50] It’s true in parenting. So you can you know, we all share a language. To use the simile of. Theatre. We have plays, we have the canon of Shakespeare, and yet they’re done millions of times every year across the across the planet. And each time you do Hamlet, for instance, the words are the same. But every performance is different. Why? They’re all different because the subtext is different in every single one. If I read on a page and it says, you know, David comes in and says, hello. If you’re a CEO or a parent or a film director, you decide, is that hello? Like, get out of my face. Is that. Hello? Like I truly welcome seeing you. Is it? Hello. Like I want to seduce you. Is it? Hello? Like I’m a bill collector, is it? Hello. What are the. Where is the coming? Where is the come from? And we want to become. Close and tender. We want to become intimate with where we’re coming from always. In every interaction. And it’s not a simple thing to do.

Barnet Bain: [00:15:21] Not a simple thing to be.

David Wood: [00:15:23] Know yourself. Um, you know, as you were speaking about directing, I started thinking about parenting and executives and leadership. And, um, I’m reminded of a West Wing scene where the actor playing Matt Santos’s character, I forget his name, Jimmy Someone from Law and Order is speaking to Alan Alda. And Alan Alda says, Well, what if I don’t agree with you? And he said, I’ll give you all the time you need to turn me around. But at the end of the day, I’ll make the call and I’ll expect you to get on board as if it was your decision. And I love that. Same with parenting. It’s like, okay, we’re going to talk about it for a fixed period of time, but at the end of the day, I, I may make the call and you may not agree with it, and I need you to be on board with it and back it. That sounds like a good leadership model to me.

Barnet Bain: [00:16:18] I think so. You know, there are some there are some guidelines and. It includes parenting guidelines. And that is one of them. One of them is I love you, and sometimes I’m going to. I’m going to tell you.

David Wood: [00:16:42] Yeah.

Barnet Bain: [00:16:43] Or instruct you in ways that you may or may not appreciate. But it’s my prerogative as a parent. And at some point that relationship ends. Along with that. There are other messages that you know. I see you. I hear you. You matter to me. You’re important to me. I give you permission to be different than me and not lose my love. Important for a parent. To model that to a child. And equally, it’s important for a leader to model that to a team. I give you permission to be different than me. You don’t have to share my beliefs, my politics, my. Values across the board. In some instances, we need to have alignment for what we are co-creating together. But I give you permission to be different than me and not lose my respect.

David Wood: [00:17:47] Oh, I love that I’m writing that down and not lose my respect. I wonder if this is a good Segway into a book, which I believe you’re writing. And I wonder, can we tell people the title or is the title titled Hush Hush?

Barnet Bain: [00:18:02] I’m still not 100% settled on it, so let’s hold off on it. But it is a book about friendship. Yeah.

David Wood: [00:18:12] One thing that stood out to me when you told me about the book was. It seemed to be about being a friend and not in order to get anything. There are books about giving so that you end up receiving a lot more. There are books that giving in order to do a favor for someone first, and then there’s a law of reciprocity. You seem to have have a very different take on friendship. And I wonder if you could talk about that.

Barnet Bain: [00:18:47] Well, giving in order to is not giving. It’s a manipulation. It’s a transaction. It’s that’s called agency as opposed to self agency. That’s the same thing as if I go out to my agent and I say, I need you to find me a Financier or a part or an actor, and in return they get 10%. That’s an agent. And very often in our culture. We are conditioned by the inputs all around us and by the modeling all around us. We are conditioned to confuse agency, not self agency. Agency Transactional agency for love. You know. And we see it everywhere. I love you. I love you. I love you. But what really is going on is I’m doing this for you and now I have expectations. I expect you to be a good child. I expect you to be a good spouse, a good partner, a good friend. Because look what I do for you. And did this. I did this. I did this. And now you owe me. I have a ledger going.

David Wood: [00:20:02] Right.

Barnet Bain: [00:20:03] So that is transactional. There is a different kind of friendship. There’s a different kind of relationship where I give to you for the because it for the joy of giving to you. I desire to. I desire for you to be happy. I would like to reduce your suffering in the world. I would like you to be fulfilled. I have no expectations. I have no agendas about it, except that I would like to reduce your your strife and striving in the world. Just want that for you. That is. Not transactional. And it. It makes for a satisfying. A very satisfying component. Bond of friendship.

David Wood: [00:21:18] Is it possible that. It’s an evolution to get to that place. And I’m wondering if people are coming from scarcity and feeling like they’re having trouble feeding themselves. And, you know, that’s one thing. And then if you get to, say, a Byron Katie stage or an Eckhart Tolle or someone like that, you evolve to a place where it’s like, you know, giving for the joy of it is the ultimate thing. Or do you think no matter where you are in the world or in your evolution, you can benefit from this model?

Barnet Bain: [00:21:56] You know, that’s such a good question. I don’t have a simple answer for that, even for myself. Because I have I have seen people in very, very dire circumstances, sustenance, living, who are so generous of spirit. And I’ve also seen people who I know, billionaires who are transactional in every. In every interaction. And. Really it is in the nature of our society to be transactional. It is increasingly modeled in our. In our media, in our drama. Just like conflict is increasingly modeled in our media and in our drama. And very rarely did the pleasures of non-transactional relationships where we very rarely see them anywhere. We have to go out into nature. To have an experience of that nature is not transactional. And these trees outside my office here are not they don’t have agendas. They don’t withhold shade. And last day. They’re not. They’re not modeling that kind of community. All the trees and nature outside the window. So we don’t have. Mm. We increasingly are exposed to. Unconditioned relationships. You owe me. Get this. Indebtedness. Our social media is you know, is competitive and shows indebtedness and our. Influencers. You know, our influencers are trying to change us for their own, for their own grandest moment or enrichment. So there is everybody has a dog in the race. Dog in the hunt. And we rarely see and getting more and more rare. Do we see people who. Are in it for the pleasures of being involved.

David Wood: [00:24:49] You said it’s model. It’s not. The transactional nature is modeled in the entertainment and social media. Are you changing that with the projects that you get involved in? And what you create you’re looking is that one of the reasons you’ve been involved in some transformational media?

Barnet Bain: [00:25:09] When I was a young man. I would have said I would have agreed with that. Um. I don’t know that it was true. Actually, I do know it wouldn’t have been true. Um, but I would have deluded myself into saying that I don’t at this point. Have a desire. Reframe. I, I don’t. It’s not my focus to change the world. That’s a transaction. So I’m not out to change the world. I, i. Wish for others well-being. I wish them to have good lives. And I don’t know what that means. I’m not going to presume to know what that means for other people. I wish for them to have as graceful a life path along their path as possible. But I can’t know another person’s path. So I increasingly work on projects that are fun. And that turned me on. And also because I make a living at it.

Barnet Bain: [00:26:42] There is that transactional component. I want it to generate resources. So there is complexity in all of these ideas. What makes it a little clearer to me is that I don’t have the same. My ego is not quite as large as it used to be. I have hats here. And they are smaller in hat size than they used to be. My head has gotten a little smaller, not much, but a little smaller.

David Wood: [00:27:21] Well, before I let you go, what are you working on now that’s fun for you?

Barnet Bain: [00:27:26] You know, it’s all fun. This conversation is super fun. It’s all fun, you know? I’m working on some books. I’m working on a garden. I’m working on writing a few things, and it’s all fun.

David Wood: [00:27:44] Awesome. Well, I’ve enjoyed this. Thank you very much. I’ve got some notes here. I’ve got a couple of quotes here that I really love. I particularly love Velocity of integrity is that’s new to me. Um, where can people find out more about you if they want to track you down and follow your work or engage with you in some way?

Barnet Bain: [00:28:04] Um, LinkedIn or online social media or

David Wood: [00:28:14] And I’m going to spell that for. Spell that for listeners. Barnet, He’s got a very cool website. And there’s a photo of you with a cigarette hanging out of your mouth, uh, at about age. 20.5. I’m going to say on that on that website.

Barnet Bain: [00:28:40] 18 years old.

David Wood: [00:28:41] 18 nearly went 19. And you were close.

Barnet Bain: [00:28:44] Yeah.

David Wood: [00:28:47] All right, mate. Bonnet Bain, thanks for being on the show.

Barnet Bain: [00:28:51] Hey, thank you so much. Appreciate you having me.

David Wood: [00:28:56] You’ve been listening to Extraordinary Focus with David Wood. Now, to achieve way more in less time to double your business and your impact in the world and to be an even more extraordinary entrepreneur and human, make sure you get your gift basket. It includes a cheat sheet to double your focus, a short video to implement the steps and a free focus audit to identify the number one focus leak in your business and how to plug it to get all three of these goodies. Just go to If you’ve gotten value out of this episode, tell your friends and nothing says keep up the good work David Like a review which helps us climb in the rankings and reach more listeners. Now let’s be extraordinary.

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