Celluloid simplicity Featured

11:13am EDT October 23, 2003
Movies typically aren't designed to teach crucial life lessons. What can you really learn from "The School of Rock" or "The Matrix" that can help you get ahead in life or advance your business?

You can, however, learn a lot from the art of movie making, where the story behind the scenes can be much more enlightening. Consider "Citizen Kane."

The saga of how Orson Welles made "Citizen Kane" is nearly as legendary as the movie. In his fictional portrayal of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, Welles challenged accepted cinematography practices. Here are three tips from the silver screen you can apply to your own endeavors.

Think big

Following his stunning radio performance of H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds," RKO Studios handed Welles carte blanche to make a film. The idea to tackle Hearst as a subject came after attending a lavish party at Hearst's opulent San Simeon estate, where the young director saw the over-the-top manner in which one of the world's most powerful men lived.

Few people would have dared take on Hearst while he was alive, even in a movie, but success rarely comes to those who don't aim high and think big.

Break new ground

In 1941, when Welles made "Citizen Kane," many of today's movie-making techniques didn't exist. To achieve one low-angle shot, Welles shocked his production team by digging up a studio lot's concrete floor to drop the camera several feet below ground.

Had Welles relied on conventional tools of the day and eschewed experimentation, he wouldn't have created the visual masterpiece he did. In your business, if you're afraid to try new things you probably won't differentiate your company from competitors.

Don't give up

Hearst used his vast media empire to put pressure on RKO Pictures to drop the "Citizen Kane" project. But Welles convinced the studio to let him finish the picture and release it.

Think about that when you face adversity in your business. If you eschew challenges -- whether they are the normal struggles your business faces each day or unique problems that threaten your company -- you can be assured of failure.

Had Welles caved in to Hearst, the world would not have experienced a movie that changed its industry. And your big, new business idea that threatens your competitors could very well do the same.